I know some things now that I didn't know two weeks ago. There are times I will not be able to write. My understanding of the publishing industry was and still is not what it should be. I have a penchant for setting unrealistic goals and becoming despondent when I don't meet them. That last one I knew, but I still have a very difficult time recognizing when I'm reaching too far. The final realization was that I am not taking care of myself like I should, and that needs to change.
There are times I turn to words and need to write. I find the practice healing, often letting me process some inner turmoil without having to face it directly. That space has allowed a lot of things come out in my writing and given me the strength to face them later, when I'm ready. I embrace melancholy, wrapping myself up in it like an old blanket. Instead of pushing away sadness into some corner, I wallow in it. My response to a bad mood is to shut the curtains and sit in the darkness with the saddest looking movie in the streaming queue. While staring at the screen, I analyze what is driving my despair and use it in my artwork and writing. It's strange and I know my husband doesn't understand it, but it passes. Recently, I hit a rut that wouldn't smooth out with polishing. It deepened, the grooves becoming more pronounced.
Words failed me. I stared at blank pages, or worse, hated whatever garbage spilled forth. My inner critic was so loud I couldn't get a page on the screen before shutting my laptop in disgust. I wanted to print out the pages of my WIP just to watch them burn while dancing around them, naked, with a bottle of tequila (that last bit may have been my writing group friend's direct quote, but I take comfort in the fact that I'm not alone). Everything was garbage and somehow writing had turned into something I loathed. I no longer rushed home to pen the words scrolling through my mind. I only wanted to sit on my couch and watch Supernatural reruns with my dog and ignore the list of obligations growing as I sat idle. I even searched for the most douche inspired Dean moments. “Dog Dean Afternoon” was the salve to my creative wounds.
What could possibly inspire such an abysmal spiral, you ask? It wasn't a harsh review. It wasn't someone telling me I couldn't and shouldn't write. It might have been the lack of sales. It was definitely the goals I had missed. It absolutely was the pressure I had shoveled upon myself. My problem was not the cruelty inflicted by another. It sprang forth from my own psyche. As usual.
Working full time is tough. Writing full time is also tough. Both working and writing full time is tricky. If enjoyment falls out of one or both, the formula for burn out has been achieved. Expect laboratory level explosions. I had stopped working out and wasn't eating as well as I normally did. I haven't been getting out to see friends. I have been focused on hitting my self-imposed deadlines to achieve a goal that wasn't realistic to begin with. The chances of churning out three novels this year didn't seem ambitious compared to some prolific writers I know. It took me a while to see they were burning out too, and had days they wanted to quit.
I thought that getting published was the key to a lifetime of writing from home, churning out novels with a singular focus. Now that I've had time to pull my head out of the sand, I see that many writers have full-time jobs – even the successful writers. If they don't have a full-time job, they work part time, often teaching and holding seminars to support their craft. Some turn to journalism, blogging, or other means of paid gigs. Getting a book in print is not a ticket out of the corporate world.
This post seems bleak, but there is a silver lining. I have decided to reevaluate how I spend my time. Instead of pining for an escape from the office, I've accepted a new position I'm excited about. It will be a challenge, and the geek in me is excited to dive into a new system and learn some new tricks. At first, it will be difficult. After almost nine years at the same company, I'm used to knowing the players, the products, and the system without research. It's frightening to leave what I know, but I don't want to “mail it in” anymore. I've printed out my schedule to start running again. I'm going to eat better without obsessing over it. There will be cheat days, but I'm ending my cheat months.
I'm going to finish editing Blood, Spirit, and Bone, book two of The Hunted, and then I'm going to take a break. I'm going to write something else, but only when I have the energy. I'm going to slow down.
But I'm not going to stop.
To quote Love and Libations, “Dreams never die.” I just need to remember that my dreams may not happen overnight, and that's okay. Saving my energy and focusing on self-care will enable me to be healthy enough to enjoy my successes. I'm going to take the time to write what I enjoy, and find strength in my work, not dread.